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a short diary of some part of my life.

Posts tagged ModWright

I wondered when Schiit would be making a preamp for speakers, it should have a remote. They went further. My favorite preamps are Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE and Audio-gd P-2. I love passive preamps. All they do is controlling the volume. I could have lived with the STP-SE but as I wrote previously, I don’t need balanced outputs and I prefer something with a small footprint. The P-2 should fill my needs but it’s *ugly. I end up with a Swiss-army knife integrated amp, a W4S mINT.

  • Room
    Thick concrete floor finished with wood parquet. There are med-hard foam under the parquet.
    The ceiling is calcium silicate boards with rubber sheets cut in small pieces covering the suspension mounts, mainly to dampen excessive vibrations from tiny movements of the roof; these are not purposely built for audio, but to extend the life of the ceiling.
    Under the roof, there are hard foams here and there, acting as sound deadening.
    The roofing material is glazed ceramic.
    Walls are bricks covered with dense plaster.
    There are acoustic panels placed here and there.
    The window frames are YKK aluminum, rubber sealed (multiple). Just like suspensions for the ceiling, all window mountings use rubber O rings to dampen potential vibration.
    Basically, everything is built to last and to dampen vibration.
  • Power
    PS Audio Quintet connected to a wall outlet for audio that is individually grounded and isolated. The Quintet has different zones for DAC, preamp and power amp.
  • Source + DAC: Mac Mini + Schiit Eitr + Schiit Modi Multibit
    The Mac Mini is powered thru an APC UPS. Most of the time, I use iTunes + BitPerfect. I find no noticeable difference compared to Audirvana Plus. iTunes is huge win for convenience.
    The Schiit Eitr and Modi Multibit are plugged onto PS Audio Quintet on the same zone. The DAC zone.
  • Cables
    I use mainly Blue Jeans Cable RCA when out of sight. By out of sight, I mean if the cables are exposed, I prefer to use better looking cables that I made myself. The materials are mainly silver-plated copper, silver soldered and terminated with silver plated RCA plugs. Basically the stuff ALO Audio is using, sourced direct from the manufacturer in Taiwan.
    For digital cables, I use exclusively Blue Jeans Cable 1505F coax cable and Sys Concept high transmissivity optical cable.
    The power cables are Zu’s, I can’t remember the model name.
    Keep in mind that I’m not a cable believer, I believe, the shorter the cable, the better. I use boutique cables for their looks. And I’m just too lazy to sell them off.
  • Speakers
    Selah Audio Tempesta. A transparent pair of speakers. Enjoyable too.

Performance

The Saga features relay-stepped attenuator. I am a huge fan of relay-stepped attenuator, also found in the STP-SE. Once you use this kind of attenuator, you won’t go back to ancient pots. For those who like low-level listening, this is it. Say good bye to channel imbalance.

Tube buffer? I love tubes, who does not? Vs. passive mode, tube buffer offers a little bloom. I feel passive mode bass extension is more precise, you can immediately notice the difference. Depending on the music I am listening to, vocals sound best with tube.

Saga is dead quiet on both modes, as expected. I have various NOS tubes, it’s fun to see how each one performs. And I guess this is the main selling point. I don’t believe there is anything like Saga in the market.

I don’t like to talk about price but in this case, I want to. Most of the time, you don’t get what you pay for in audio world. So comparing how an audio gear performs based on price is completely irrelevant. Yes, there are expensive high performing gears out there, but there are also cheap high performing gears that perform just as good if not better than expensive high performing gears. If I read one reviewer who says, “oh yeah, this USD 350 is off course performing just like how it’s priced, this USD 3000 gear is off course a better product.” I’d just close the page.

Even if the USD 3000 gear is well engineered, you need to calculate how much this expensive product maker wants to make in the first place. Things are moving at a much slower pace, they don’t have the numbers. Add to that the incredible efficiency that Schiit practice. Then there is the dealer cut.

I’ve gone thru this path, very rarely that I found an expensive gear that performs cut and above superior to the cheaper counterparts. Regardless of price, the Saga is a high performance preamp.

How does the Saga pair with Modi Multibit and Vidar?
Honestly, I feel like the Vidar is a bit of a letdown. It’s a great power amp, no doubt. Wyred 4 Sound mINT as a power amp is my preferred pairing. I will eventually write a Vidar review. Stay tuned.

Paired with the mINT, I can literally point out which DAC used at the time. It’s completely transparent.

Paired with ModWright KWA 100, the Saga is also very transparent. A transparent preamp will expose flaws in the chain. Modi Multibit is a warm DAC.

Build Quality

The first thing I notice is the aluminum top. It is nicely grained with the right amount of thickness. The corners are chamfered and finished without any noticeable gouge. It’s a looker.

Saga looks very handsome from a distance but when you look at it closely, The chassis has misalignments here and there. Not as bad as their smaller chassis but they can do better at no cost. It’s a non-issue for most.

I hope I won’t see these poor soldering job if I ever open it.

https://www.head-case.org/forums/topic/12921-schiit-jotunheim/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-fulla-v2-dac-and-headphone-amplifier.3154/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-modi-2-usb-dac.2082/

Let’s be fair, not everyone build their product as neat as Justin Wilson of Headamp. But bad soldering job is just sloppy and it looks like you want to make a cost cutting measure somewhere. I view buying an audio gear as a long term investment, an investment that hopefully last for decades. I don’t leave my gears active all the time like many do. So I expect what I purchase will last for a while.

I know many people like to frequently change gears but I don’t do that. Once I’m settled, I won’t care what comes out this year or the next. If I want to add another set-up, then I may set out seeking new gears. Besides, unplugging, plugging and moving heavy audio gears are not fun at all. After all, the goal is to enjoy the music, not comparing equipments.

This superb tube preamp gets my highest recommendation, whether you want solid state or tube, this will fit your needs. Passive preamp lovers? Checked! For the solid state guys, you may like the Saga as the tube buffer sounds like a superb solid state preamp. Sure, the tube buffer adds a bit of colors, you may end up liking it as much as I do.

 

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I’ve been trying to build a second system for the living room. I scouted many local audio stores. I didn’t particularly find anything interesting at any of them so I went to Singapore. Singapore is famous for its’ vast selections of high-end shops, including hi-fi audio.

Initial Plan

Initially, I was quite certain that I was going to buy Schiit Gungnir (DAC), Wyred 4 Sound mPRE (DAC + preamp), and ModWright KWA 100 (power amp). I’m already familiar with the latter and the former. The mPRE was what I wanted to audition. I was not going to buy them online or had them shipped to Jakarta without knowing how they perform. I didn’t plan on acquiring speakers other than Selah‘s. Dislaimer: I have never heard of how a decent pair of non-directional speakers sound like. The only way to do this is to audition them in person. This is why we need to support audio dealers. They help us make definite decisions.

Raindrop Audio

I visited Raindrop Audio in 16 Waringin Park. The store is located right in the middle of a suburban area. It’s a bit difficult to find, but it’s actually a good thing as it is far enough from city noise. They are the sole distributor of W4S in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Once I called them, informing I would be coming, they set up a listening session with exactly what I was looking for.

The setup: W4S Music Server – W4S mPRE – W4S mAMP (mono amp x 2) – Heed Audio Enigma 5 speakers

Heed Audio Enigma 5

Wyred 4 Sound Music Server & mINT

A Huge Surprise

I was already familiar with a few Wyred 4 Sound products as I’m currently using the DAC-2 and STI-500. This setup is different from any setup I have auditioned. It eliminates the need of a complete room acoustic treatments. Most of the time, with directional speakers, you need to set up the sound to be right in the middle of where the seating position is going to be. Even after the room acoustics are adjusted, you still can’t go around the room and expect the sound to sound just as good as at the seating position. The Heed Enigma speakers solve this issue. The sound is always full bodied and the resolution stays pretty much the same at different listening positions. There may be a slight degradation at extreme angle but I’m sure I will be more satisfied with them than with any directional speakers.

At Heed Audio, we have found that loudspeakers with a non-directional radiation pattern are best able to simply let the music into the room. At the same time, other things begin to happen. Rather than feeling compelled to sit rigidly in the “sweet spot”, it is possible to move to the right and left, forward or backward, up or down, and the music follows.

I came to Raindrop to audition Wyred 4 Sound and now, I think I’m going to buy a pair of Heed speakers. They just got a potentially long-term customer.

Heed Enigma 5

The Enigmas was not only excelling with little room acoustic treatment, they actually sounded pretty good. Ray, the owner of Raindrop played a few classical, they all sounded superb. As stated above, the sound was always full bodied. They did not sound thin or overly thick or heavy, they sounded just right. Usually, with complex passages and vocal, inferior speakers will definitely struggle, they are not inferior speakers, they are superb speakers. The Enigmas produced complex passages effortlessly. Vocal was also produced gracefully without any sign of glares and spikes. This sounds like to good to be true. Then, I looked at the speakers, the drivers are custom-made for them by Morel, one of my favorite brands. Heed does not skimp on build quality and it shows. After looking at the speakers, I went back to more listening sessions. The sound was never constraint. They sounded detailed, a bit on the warm side, full bodied, and never fatiguing. With opera, they sounded big. The soundstage was huge but still believable. The sound placement was great. It’s almost like I was being served by live music, with the performers performing in the room. Or better yet, it’s like listening in a jazz club. They sounded absolutely satisfying.

Wyred 4 Sound minis

No great speakers will sound good if not driven by equally great DAC, preamp, and amp. The digital front consists of W4S Music Server and the DAC section in the mPRE. I suspect, the W4S mPRE preamp section is a great one. Looking at the specs alone, it’s possible that it is equal or better than the marvelously good W4S STP-SE. The power amps are the W4S mAMP, two monos, powered by the newest ICEpower modules inside.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be buying them. I want to combine all those functions into one box, that can be found in a mINT. Hopefully the Heed speakers will sound just as glorious. If not, I can always purchase them.

The music server can be controlled via an iOS app. Ray was standing behind me during the audition and he did not even touch any of the minis in front of me. Everything seemed to run seamlessly. There was an ethernet cable connected on the back of the music server, thus no wi-fi signal interference.

As I said above, the sound produced by the speakers never felt constraint. The two mono amps never ran out of breath. Even during steep up and down, the amps easily drove the Enigma.

I like EJ’s approach in making the minis. They are pretty small compared to today’s huge hi-fi gears. I also like the shape of the box. It does not look like a radical new design, it is still utilitarian with more rounded shapes. The buttons are all well thought out. It’s easy to memorize what those buttons are for. There is a LED on every function. The remote is a cute and functional. Everything on the W4S minis scream quality.

Purchase Decision

I will be buying a pair of Heed Enigma 5 when I travel to Singapore in December. I suspect, most people will also be very satisfied with them as the sound is also a huge change compared to the usual directional speakers and you don’t need to invest heavily on room acoustic treatments. The only room acoustic treatment that Ray had in the room during the audition was a panel behind the speakers. Perhaps, that was a way to show that they only need a little treatment.

Selah Audio Tempesta Review

Just like the reviewer wrote above, Selah Audio is probably the most unheralded speaker brand in the industry. Rick Craig has been building his company image on great designs coupled with great measurements and off course, great sound. The veneer finish quality is also top notch but don’t expect him to go way over the top on the cabinet design like Magico or Sonus Faber. Great sound is what matters the most and so far, he delivers.

Once a year, there is a two-channel audio-fest held at Rocky Mountain, called RMAF. At RMAF, speaker makers show their latest and greatest creations. There are hundreds of unique designs, some do look out of place. At this event, we as customers and audio aficionados may listen to the gears and chat with the makers. I can also chat with fellow hobbyists about what they are thinking about a particular product or the speakers we just listened to. It’s not only about the gears shown there, it’s about getting together, sharing anything in common or uncommon, whether it’s great music, great albums, or just hang out to meet friends. It’s a great event for us and the manufacturers.

Some say it’s not the most effective way to audition speakers as some manufacturers are often having difficulties in setting up their room. Well, you can’t bring them home. One important thing that I get from the show is that, whoever manufacturers get the room right, they are the ones who have the expertise to design great ones.

In this case, I find Selah Audio’s speakers at RMAF always sound great.

This is where the journey started. I have recommended Selah to a dozen people and all of them who decided to make a purchase claimed that they are very satisfied.

Now, let’s start the review. The Tempesta has become the best selling Selah’s best selling model and I’m not surprised.

My usual setup:

Bedroom with room treatments
Dedicated power line
PS Audio Quintet
MacBook Air w/ Audirvana+
Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2
Wyred 4 Sound STI-500

The sound is great. When you read the specs and the parts used on them, you’ll know this is something. But that something won’t become great without great crossover, tweaks, and cabinets. The RAAL ribbons are full sounding. What a surprise, ribbons tend to sound thin and somewhat bright, but these ones are different. The Accuton mids are jewelry-like fine sounding. The Scan Speak woofers are astonishingly clean. Their pairings produce magical sound. They sound so coherent that I’m finding a hard time where the faults are. They are as good as monitors at that size can get. Calling something the best is a tall order. What makes them so good? Well, for a monitor, they sound like bigger speakers. For the price, they are bargains in the sea of high-priced over-hyped brands.

The Tempesta has become the best selling Selah’s best selling model and I’m not surprised.

I tried two different amps to drive the Tempesta and both of them do superb job. The first is off course the STI-500 and the second one is ModWright KWA 100. The musicality of these speakers are superb, yet resolution, soundstage, precision, balance are not one bit compromised. Going thru complex passages is a breeze. Bass is great. I could probably add a subwoofer to go lower but guess what, my sub is sitting on the corner unplugged and unused.

The great things about the Tempesta do not stop on the sound alone. I know many people consider speakers as part of their interior design. Rick does a great job with the veneer. The one I have, Pau Ferro (Bolivian Rosewood) is stunning in person.

Coupled with a pair of beautiful speaker stands, they look even better. Add a few interior design ornaments like wallpaper, functional but good looking room treatment and light-pine-wood-like-finish desks, the room is (IMHO) one comfy one. Stay tune for pics 😀

Well, I guess that’s it. I’m planning to purchase another pair of Rick’s speakers for my living room, possibly soon. Normally, I don’t buy things from the same brand unless it is really good. Selah falls to that category, the really good ones. I don’t even plan to buy another W4S product, that speaks a lot about my admiration of Selah Audio.

Happy Listening!

Finally…

I was not planning to write anything about me reaching audio nirvana… I am so happy that from now on, I don’t have to deal with what gear I want to buy or try, what music I want to listen to analyze the sound quality.

After a long and exhausting search, I am now able to breath easily. My brain does not have to think much other than which artist’s album I want to play, which track I want to play, and what music I want to add to my collections. This is something that I was not able to do in the last year or so. A lot of dollars have been poured as well. Audio is a very expensive hobby. But what hobby is cheap? You just need to get what you need (not want) and be happy with them. But that never works because the real problems are how much or how far you are willing to go until you are happy and how you can dismiss ‘I want the latest and the greatest’ bugs.

Higher Price Tag ≠ Better


Keep reading…

Dishonesties

Audio isn’t exactly as expensive as I thought before. I knew I was going to splurge ten-thousands of dollars into it. But what I didn’t expect is dishonesties in audiophile industry. The dishonesties include hypes, lies, and very huge margins (for mediocre performing products). This is where people lose their hard-earned money. There are very few honest personalities but they are also share their own issues. Late delivery, no email replied, and minor/major imperfections are some of the issues. Their products are superb if you are willing to give them a chance to remedy the issues. I guess you just have to patient. I have learnt the hard way and I am now well prepared if I were to purchase a new Hi-Fi product.

Sound Signature

Now, let’s talk about manufacturer’s sound signature. Most of them have their own sound signature. They can’t get away from it. Audio-gd for example, no matter how many times Kingwa wrote that their gear are wire with gain, I still find them to be dark, slow, mellow, and smooth. PS Audio products tend to be bassy, engaging, and warm. Bryston products tend to be a bit dry, a bit thin, but very neutral. They are all different in their own ways. I personally don’t mind sound signature but I prefer it at a much lesser degree and a more enjoyable way. There is no King of the Hills in term of sound signature. This is where you need to make a stance on what kind of sound signature you prefer for your ears. Only you who can make the decision. No one else could.

Superior or Different?

Then, there is sound quality, which one really is better than the others. Most high-end manufacturers’ products are often touted to perform better than their cheaper counterparts. This is not exactly true. In my opinion, there are only two major differentiations, superior and different. Being superior means a product simply sounds better than the others. Being different means a product simply sounds different (sound signature differences) but no better. This is where technical specs (+ measurements) and manufacturers’ reputation can be very useful. Ears and brain can often be misleading. A few words or so from a superb review can turn our opinion upsidedown. I think this is a real issue that plagues most audiophiles. To make it worse, most of them do not have experience with high-end gear (IMO, a high end gear is a high performance gear). They often simply throw opinion that they get from various reviews. In my opinion, superior gear should be transparent to the music. It doesn’t excel with only one genre, it excels in almost every genre. The gear shouldn’t be designed to be genre specific. That way, I can enjoy my musics however I want.

This single requirement basically throws out Red Wine Audio, Mhdt, Audio-gd, any lush sounding tube gear…

I bet some of you want to know what gear I end up keeping. Sharing is caring so here we go…
I feel that good sound must be produced from the front end. So, let’s start with the front end, the DAC…

DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)

I wasn’t aware of the prowess of PS Audio before I tried the PWD (PerfectWave DAC). Luckily, I also encountered W4S (Wyred 4 Sound) with their DAC-2. IMO, they are extremely similar. I actually think the DAC-2 is a poor man’s PWD. There are also a few other high-end brands that I have tried after I auditioned PS Audio’s best DAC, such as: Weiss DAC202, Berkeley Alpha DAC, Lavry DA11. They are all very similar. They play various genre with ease. All of them sound superb. But which one really is the best. To make this simple, here are the breakdowns:

  • PWD Vs. DAC-2
    as I said above, they are extremely similar. PWD tends to be a bit warmer at times or DAC-2 tends to be a bit more engaging  and a bit more detailed at times but still retains an enjoyable degree of warmness, just like PWD. That’s it! I don’t know which one is more realistic. They are equally enjoyable.
  • Berkeley Alpha DAC Vs. Weiss DAC202
    they are extremely similar too, maybe the Alpha is a bit warmer and the sound position is centered. I bet no one could differentiate them. One advantage of the Alpha over the DAC202 is the ability to play HDCD.
  • PWD/DAC-2 Vs. Alpha/DAC202
    the Alpha/DAC202’s detail retrieval is just nuts. It is a noticeable difference but we are talking 5-10% improvements. At times, Alpha/DAC202 is not as engaging as the PWD/DAC-2. I think this is the DAC that you should choose if you like a very revealing source. This advantage can be overturned when I2S over HDMI (PWT – PerfectWave Transport) is used on the PWD/DAC-2, PWD/DAC-2 is just as good if not better in detail retrieval. Other than detail retrieval, with I2S over HDMI, PWD/DAC-2 excels over Alpha/DAC202 in almost every area.
  • Lavry DA11 Vs. Alpha & DAC202
    I got this curiosity about Lavry DA11. Two weeks passed and I found them to be very similar. Yes, a $1480 Lavry DA11 performs just as good as a $5000 Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC. The DA11 can stand on its own. You won’t be able to differentiate them, my friends and I can’t! It was a very surprising finding considering I didn’t have any interest in the DA11.

You would think: oh, the PWD or the DAC-2 is a clear winner. Keep in mind, we are talking about minor improvements. No DAC absolutely stood out, they were more variations on a theme than substantial differences. Oh and, if you purchase a PWT to be paired with PWD/DAC-2, it brings the price of the combo to Alpha/DAC202’s territory. So, which one I ended up keeping? You will have to read the following paragraphs below.

Pre-Ampllifier

Not needed. Read speaker amplifier section below.

Speaker Amplifier

Choosing a speaker amp is not as hard as choosing a DAC. The differences between various speaker amps more apparent that the differences between various DACs. Nevertheless, I still had to purchase and borrow a few amps. I’m more willing to splash much more dollars into a speaker amp than a DAC. A good speaker amp will likely outlast me. A DAC on the other hand, will likely become obsolete in just a couple of years. So, I consider this as a one-time-purchase (inferior speaker amps will be sold or returned). This has to be right. I had the following amps for comparison: Wyred 4 Sound STI-500, ModWright KWA 100, and Krell FBI. W4S DAC-2 was used as the source. FYI, STI-500 and FBI are integrated amps, so in the following comparison, the highly acclaimed Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE is used in between the DAC and the KWA 100.

  • STI-500 Vs. KWA 100
    STI-500 produces a slightly warmer sound. It does almost everything right though. The bass is a bit boomy if compared with the KWA 100. The level of detail retrieval is more or less the same. KWA 100 sounds somewhat more engaging at low volume. PRAT is where KWA 100 excels over STI-500.
  • STI-500 Vs. FBI
    STI-500 seems to be a refined version of the FBI. The Krell sounds raw. It has brute force that can sound somewhat unrefined. The bass on the FBI is pretty good, it’s definately bassy but it doesn’t go as deep as the STI-500. STI-500 presents equal level of detail retrieval. PRAT is a little better on the STI-500. It sings with almost any music, while with the FBI, it only excels in a few genres.

I think I can pick a clear winner, it’s the KWA 100. Keep in mind that it is almost twice the price of the STI-500. Recently, ModWright increased the price of their products. I also used the excellent STP-SE which cost $2K. The combo is going to set you back around $5.5K. Not to mention, additional interconnects and power cable. Wait a second, if you notice that the PWD and the DAC-2 have 32-bit digital volume control feature. You actually don’t have to use a preamp in between the DAC and the power amp. $2K is saved. That’s why these excellent DACs present very high value. They can act as a preamp and it is a super transparent one. If you introduce a preamp in between, you make the signal path a lot longer. I for one believe that the shorter the better. You can easily differentiate the sound with or without STP-SE, the overall sound quality do suffer a bit. This is with the excellent STP-SE. Imagine if you are using a lesser preamp. I couldn’t believe the amount of grunge a pre-amp adds.

Speakers

For speakers, I use a pair of Selah Audio’s top-of-the-line two-way monitors and a single Selah Audio powered subwoofer. I use monitors because I like simplicity. I dislike big-honking speakers. A couple of months ago, I brought my speakers to a local high-end audio store. The owner was pleasantly surprised. My little but heavy speakers trounce some of his floorstanders and all of his monitors. They sound bigger than they look! This was something that I didn’t expect. In the future, when I am in my 50s (I’m in my mid 20s BTW), I’ll give Rick Craig (Selah Audio owner & designer) a call. I’m going to go all out. Selah Audio is the best speakers manufacturer that I have come across.

My Choices

I think I have put too much energy and money into this one hobby. This has got to stop. Here are my choices:

  • DAC: Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2
    why: it is an excellent performer at the price point or any price point. As I said previously, no DAC absolutely stood out. Even if I remove any reference to the price, it is still one of the most honest sounding pieces I own (along with the PWD). This thing is just loaded with settings, features, inputs, outputs ,and just raw performance. You know when you pull this brick out of the box that it is all business right off the bat. No bling. No pretty touchscreens, you pay straight up for what really counts and get it in spades.
  • Amplifier: STI-500
    why: KWA 100 is clearly a better amp. But when paired with DAC-2, the major differences diminish to minor differences. EJ has clearly put a lot of thoughts into making the DAC-2. The pair is just magical.

The Wyred 4 Sound pair allows me to save some money to fund my next and final two purchases. They are one of PS Audio power conditioner and additional room treatments that actually looks good! I could have gone all PS Audio PerfectWave series, but the thing is when similar performance can be achieved in lower price point and not sacrificing one bit of the sound quality, I’m willing to do it. Besides, Wyred 4 Sound is a veteran in the business. They know what they are doing. Yes, DAC-2 is a poor man’s PWD. It has the prowess of the PWD in cheaper suit. It is also upgradable. Consider these as well:

  • I have no problem spending $10K on speakers that will be a good buy 10 years from now but I think that spending more than $5K on something with an 18 month leadership is very questionable.
  • DACs are great at improving sound from a lower quality source, but output is limited by your amp and of course the speakers. You will get bigger improvements when you upgrade amp speakers, probably in that order in my opinion. Speaker changes make bigger differences provided you have a decent amp. Then I’d consider a DAC to smooth out any remaining problems from your old source/DAC.

I won’t be buying anymore audio products (except the final two purchases mentioned above), even for my curiosity sake. It’s set and done! I will be adding more music though. Having experience the troubles associated with audiophile gear, I do not want to go thru the same path again. I’m very happy that I don’t have to deal with those hassles again. But I guess without having gone thru that path, I would not have known this and that. Although I lost a lot of money and valuable time, I do appreciate good people in the industry. Good guys from Wyred 4 Sound, PS Audio, HeadAmp, and a few more deserve more recognitions than they have now. They are not only producing superb products but also providing great services to the community. All the pain and happiness have taught me a lot of things, not just audio, but life in general.

Suggestions

Given there are too many choices in the market, I have a few suggestions for you:

  • Ask yourself, do you want to be an audiophile or audiophool? I’m dead serious.
  • Set your budget. You DO NOT need to spend crazy money to get great sound and I’ve seen a lot of people selling their gear because they need to finance something important. This is something that you will not want to experience. It proves that you don’t save enough and you have spent more than you originally intended. DO NOT put aside any $$ for ‘audiophile’/fancy cables. The general consensus of high-end audio must be expensive is WRONG. High-end audio is affordable (High End is specifically SQ related not price dependent).
  • Take every single review as grain of salt, including mine. Personally, I tend to give more weight to users comments, especially when users comments reach a critical mass. I also give more weight to negative comments than positive comments.
  • Buy from ‘real’ reputable companies. There is less chance they would screw you up. Both the design of the product and customer service are usually top notch. You will also get higher resale value.
  • Ask yourself these questions for the gear you have auditioned: Do they have their own sound signature? Are they transparent enough? Do they produce enjoyable music?
  • Avoid buying used gear when possible! I know many people recommend this way to save tons of money but the thing is when you buy used gear, you don’t know how the item that you are about to buy or have bought performs. There are many reason why people sell their gear. One of the reasons is damaged gear. I have personally seen many ‘surprises’ when buying used gear.
  • Do not attempt to modify the thing yourself and do not ask somebody (who is supposed to be a ‘reputable’ modder) to mod it for you. If you are not satisfied with the equipments you own, sell them and upgrade. If you want a better sound, sell them and upgrade.

I will post a few photos of my listening room when everything is in its right places. Right now, it’s too messy. I also need to sell off equipments that I no longer need, to recoup my initial investments.
So, I guess, this is it. Enjoy what you have and most importantly, the music!
Happy Listening!

I did not have much time evaluating this ‘tour’ unit. This amp was a loaner. I barely had 3 full days to play with it.

So, let’s skip all the unnecessary words.

The unit seems solid, chunks of aluminum are used for the chassis. I had a hard time unbolting the top plate, let’s hope the production version has no such issue. The innards are very well thought out and screams quality. The heart of the KWA 100 Amplifier is a single voltage gain stage called the “Solid State Music Stage.” The circuit was developed by Alan Kimmel, creator of the exceptional vacuum tube “Mu” stage. It has MOSFET output stage, I am a huge fan of MOSFET output stage. The KWA 100 uses no global feedback, is direct-coupled, fully differential, and designed and Handmade in the USA.

I noticed that there are a few holes for capacitors that are left empty. Later on, I found out that they are for an ‘upgrade package’ that ModWright will offer. They are now offering an upgrade package for KWA 100. They also sell a KWA 100 SE which turn out to be a KWA 100 with the upgrade package. The upgrade package cost $700, whether the improvements worth the cost remain to be seen.

With my limited time with it, I made sure that I had a good 3 days trial with it. I decided to pair it with my Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2. DAC-2 can also be used as a pre-amp and it is a super transparent one. I compared KWA 100 side-by-side with D-Sonic Magnum 500S. During my listening sessions, I made sure that all gears have proper ‘warm-up’ time. The KWA 100 produces more heat but that was expected, considering it’s a class A amplifier.

The results:

ModWright KWA 100:

  • slightly ‘colder’ than 500S
  • more dynamics
  • more resolution, micro details
  • soundstage is on par with 500S
  • better, defined bass
  • overall, more enjoyable and musical

D-Sonic Magnum 500S:

  • slightly warmer than KWA 100
  • soundstage is on par with KWA 100
  • bass is a bit flabby, falls apart in complex passages
  • resolution is lacking, the biggest difference
  • thin and too-smooth

It is easy to love a product when you don’t have any comparable products to compare with. I thought, D-Sonic Magnum 500S was a wonderful amp. That ended with ModWright KWA 100. ModWright KWA 100 is better in almost every way. I cannot find a single reason why I should not buy this KWA 100 instead of other amp. FYI, the ModWright is better built (superb build quality) and completely designed and assembled in America.

I’m all for supporting better products. It’s not about where it’s designed but where I would want my money to be spent. So, I don’t really care where it’s made, I just want the best product that I can buy. The KWA 100 happens to be the best amp that I have tried at its price range. I think I am going to buy one, it will be the KWA 100SE.

Happy Listening!